Aquaponic Gardening

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Well, some one beat me to the punch about Automatic feeders with a discussion but I'll post what I had started anyway.

When I started doing aquaponics I had no idea how much difficulty I would have finding an appropriate automatic fish feeder. And finding an automatic fish feeder was rather important since I have to be able to leave the system to the attention of neighbors fairly often when I need to travel. (I don't want to ask a neighbor to come over and measure out feed three times a day for multiple tanks.)

First we tried a solar powered automatic game feeder. Unfortunately those feeders fling the feed out in all directions so I had to sort out something to catch the feed and drop it down into the fish tank. And then once we sorted that out, we had some nocturnal visitor that would mess the thing all up and leave it hanging all crooked.
So, I tried a few demand feeders but the catfish didn't seem interested in pulling or bumping anything in order to get their food (but I expect the raccoon did.)
Next we tried a pond feeder meant for flinging feed out into farm or game ponds. Well that thing would fling the feed so hard that it would pulverize against whatever top I tried to use to get it to stop and drop down into the fish tank. So we modified it to make it fling less hard but it still never really worked well and the feed wouldn't all move down into the shoot and the timer wasn't adjustable enough for the situation and would either under feed or over feed.

I looked at the professional fish feeder systems used in aquaculture but the prices were high and some of the same problems would still apply for a smaller aquaponics system.

There are some koi feeders out there that might work but no one really gave any glowing recommendations of them to me so I didn't want to spend so much on a feeder that didn't hold much reserve of feed.

Next option was to modify an automatic feeder like used for cats/dogs. Well we tried a couple but didn't have satisfactory results from any of the less costly ones.

I finally splurged and spent the money to get an Ergo Automatic Pet Feeder.

The feeder works well to deliver precise amounts of feed and the timer is very adjustable. However the feeder is not really designed for outdoor use (they do make a pond feeder version but it is simply a cover over it for weather proofing. The first winter using the feeders, I discovered that they are not rat proof. I had damage to the feeders from rats chewing on them. Solution was to protect with hardware cloth which makes cleaning the feeder much more difficult and I've not figured out a good way to protect the feed shoot from rats trying to climb into the feeder through the auger tube. (In this process I learned that the Rat Zapper Ultra is effective at killing rats.)

So it works but I highly recommend some modifications before using it in an outdoor or greenhouse situation.

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Comment by TCLynx on June 30, 2012 at 12:23pm

Phil, perhaps I need a picture drawn since I don't think I'm understanding how the poll guard is protecting the feeder hanging right over/next to the fish tank, seems to me the critters could simply bypass the poll guard by climbing on the fish tank.

Now how I wound up protecting my feeders was to basically wrap them in hardware cloth with lots of pointy projections sticking out near the feed shoot and a bucket over the lid and I secured it down so a larger critter couldn't knock it over or something and that seemed to work along with rat traps for a season and then last winter we hand fed the fish because I had my mom on hand through the winter to take care of feeding when I was out of town and there was no greenhouse to encourage rats around the aquaponics though we were using the electric rat zappers this past winter with regular results.  We might have to try the bucket traps again since rats tend to like farms where there is any animal feed (we still have ducks and chickens though I hope to free range them more and feed them less commercial feed.)

Comment by TCLynx on June 30, 2012 at 11:16am

Grand for bird feeders though, lots of fun to watch the squirrels work on the puzzle.

Comment by TCLynx on June 30, 2012 at 11:15am

Right but how do I feed the fish from a feeder mounted on a poll with a baffle that would have to be several feet away from any fish tank for the baffle to be effective at keeping the critters away from the feeder?

Comment by TCLynx on June 30, 2012 at 9:58am

Phil, how does that keep the critters off and yet allow you to feed the fish with it?  I mount mine over my fish tank so the fish tank would provide a means to get close to the feeder even if the post was non climbable.  Squirrels can leap quite a distance and I'm not sure how well mounting the feeder 4 feet above a 4 foot tall fish tank would work since I would then need a ladder to access it myself and I would fear the feed falling down out of the feeder would miss the "drop zone" in the fish tank cover, especially if there were a breeze.

Hum, I wonder............  Now this would definitely be a costly option, but a 2' by 4' pipe could be used to house the feeder mounted about 2' up the pipe so critters probably wouldnt' be able to reach up inside the pipe (only rats would attempt the up from under the fish tank cover I expect, raccoons would be too large and I don't think squirrels like water that much.  And a lid on top would protect the feeder from the elements and critters but pipe that size isn't cheap and it still wouldn't protect the feed from bugs or moisture.  So seems to me I would prefer to spend the money on something that will actually close a hatch that would keep insects and moisture out except when the feeder is actually engaged.

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